May 3, 2019
Exceptional Early Career Award: Heather Howard
In recognition of outstanding undergraduate teaching, two pre-tenure professors recently received the 2019 Exceptional Early Career Award for tenure-track faculty. This profile focuses on award recipient Heather Howard, assistant professor of libraries and information studies.
Years at Purdue: Since July 2016.
Teaching interests: I enjoy teaching students how to use information to support business decisions. This includes teaching what business information is available, how to find it, evaluate it, and use it to make informed decisions. I teach this type of content to management, agriculture economics, hospitality and tourism management, and entrepreneurship students, as well as actual entrepreneurs. Business information has been essential to me in my own professional and entrepreneurial endeavors, and I want to pass these skills along to my students. I’m also passionate about teaching students how to evaluate news and information they come across in their daily lives. Being information-literate is more important than ever, and it’s essential for students to be able to critically digest the information they are consuming.
On redesigning courses: Once you start redesigning course content, it’s hard to ever be satisfied. There are always ways we can improve as instructors, and making the effort has a direct impact on student learning and success. Since I started implementing active learning in my classroom, it’s been easier to keep students engaged with the content. We practice making actual decisions using business information, so they understand how they will do these same things once they are in the workforce. I believe it’s important to not become complacent with teaching. What works one year may not work the next, and we need to always be working to connect with the students we have now.
On working with students outside of the classroom: It’s very satisfying (though not necessarily scalable) to work with students one on one or in small groups. There’s much more time to go into specific questions and go deeper on things they find interesting or useful. An example of this is working with the Student Soybean Innovation Competition. I meet with approximately 30 groups per year, and consult with them on the market analysis for their products. We work through ideation, and can delve deep on the marketability of just that one idea. There simply isn’t time to do that with everyone in a classroom setting. Also, working with Learning Community classes, we often take our students outside of the classroom to learn directly from professionals. This shows the students how what we are talking about in class is being applied by people doing the jobs they hope to one day attain.
On what she hopes students take away from her courses: I hope the students begin to become literate in business information and media. I want them to take what we’ve talked about in class and apply it to their lives, both as students and as future professionals.
On receiving the Exceptional Early Career Award: Shock and honor, in equal measures. I knew I had been nominated by the libraries, but I also know what excellent educators we have here at Purdue, so hadn’t even let myself hope that I would win.
What her students say: Her enthusiasm toward teaching is very noticeable. … Professor Howard knows a TON about the hospitality industry and the library databases. Her assignments always had clear expectations, and she made sure we had the tools we needed to get them done. As one of the first professors I had here, Professor Howard was very welcoming and not the least bit intimidating. I also liked that she gave us real-world applications and scenarios to help us develop thinking skills. … I loved taking this class and discussing how we are going to use what we learn later on. I also enjoyed Professor Howard discussing how it applied to opening her own business. Overall, I loved this class and learned a lot that I'm sure I will use throughout my college and future careers. … Professor Howard is always willing to clarify and help us in and out of class. She makes the learning environment fun and I look forward to going to her class every week.
Writer: Abbey Nickel, 765-496-1325, firstname.lastname@example.org